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Off The Record

BLISS FISHER has been suspended from her job as Mendocino County's Director of Animal Care Services. No one is saying why Fisher has been suspended. Fisher herself told Justine Frederiksen of the Ukiah Daily Journal that she has “not been fired and I did not resign,” adding, “I think it would be in the best interest of the animals if I did go back. My hope is that it is resolved sooner than later.” From what we can gather, the basic dispute between Fisher and the County stems from Fisher's commitment to adopting out as many dogs and cats as possible, which means feeding and sheltering them until homes can be found. Which means the County grumbles that the creatures should be euthanized faster to save on the food bill.

REVISING LONG HELD ASSUMPTIONS, judicial division: Only two Ukiah sites have been considered for the proposed new County Courthouse, one of which, the library site, has been found not doable. That leaves the depot site on West Perkins opposite the Adventist Hospital complex on about a ten-acre parcel mostly owned by the defunct railroad and private parties. Initially, a large parcel north and east of Ukiah's crumbling downtown was briefly in the mix as a proposed location for a new Courthouse. It was never a contender.

IF A NEW COURTHOUSE should be built, it will rise where the old train depot now rests on the south side of West Perkins. We are informed that negotiations between the state and the owners of the depot parcel are underway, although the new Courthouse has not been finally authorized for construction and may not ever be authorized if, as is likely, the state budget continues to contract.

WHEN AND IF the Courthouse is built, it will not include County offices presently housed along with the courts in the existing Courthouse. The DA and the Public Defender, to name two County functions, will either remain in the old Courthouse or be housed in privately owned buildings expected to appear on land surrounding the new Courthouse, meaning that the County would be leasing private space that the County does not presently have to lease because several County functions are presently housed in the County-owned Courthouse.

WHY DOES MENDOCINO COUNTY have so many judges? Because social collapse has meant a quantum increase in the number of citizens turning to drugs and alcohol for solace and crime for income, not to mention small claims actions and, of course, a big increase in people who annually get married and divorced. A large percentage of Mendocino County's 90,000 people run afoul of the law, many of them repeatedly, and another large number are in and out of the courts on civil matters, the American population having become litigious, running to court to settle beefs that adults of yesteryear sorted out themselves outside the legal system.

WHEN THE COUNTY supported two superior court judges, Broaddus and O'Brien, these two crotchety old boys could handle the relatively low volume of pre-collapse crime by themselves, and they didn't have to monkey around with a lot of the publicly-funded handholding you see in courtrooms today. When the collapse began in 1967, and reached the deluge proportions in the middle 1970s that continues to this day, a third superior court was added presided over by James King of Willits. Then, the lawyers controlling the state legislature upgraded all the County's courts to superior court status, resulting in the elevation of a bunch of jive hippies to superior court status with the Sun King-quality pay and fringes commanded by superior court judges. The hippies had been functioning as part-time judges in the County's outback justice courts in Covelo, Laytonville, Point Arena, and Boonville, their off-hours occupied in stoned grab ass up in the hills. That made 7 superior court judges for Mendocino County and a total of ten when the full time Muni Court judges at Willits, Fort Bragg and Ukiah also became superior court-qualified. So, in 2012, we have a lot of judges, many of them retired but still sitting around the state as fill-in judges, more judges for a population our size than anywhere in the state, maybe in the country.

SONOMA COUNTY GRAPE GROWERS are worried about a shortage of vineyard labor as the 2012 harvest begins. Mendo? We're trying to find out, but Mendo's demographic is much like Sonoma County's in that vineyard labor has aged, and the children of that labor seldom follow their parents into the fields because, unlike their parents, they have the career options typically enjoyed by second generation Americans.

USED TO BE young Mexican men crossed the border to work in one or another crop then went home when the season ended, but on the Northcoast vineyard workers tended to stay, with their wives joining them. They became legal immigrants and raised families here but their youngsters went into other lines of work. Now, there's a shortage of vineyard workers.

HOW MUCH DOES a vineyard worker make? The Employment Department claims an average of $14 an hour and up, with many growers paying more to ensure they'll have a crew at harvest time.

ACCORDING to the Pew Hispanic Center, fewer workers are arriving from Mexico. Bad employers may soon find themselves facing ruinous labor shortages at harvest time, and employers generally are already hustling to find sufficient harvest workers. And there's the marijuana factor: Why work for $14 in Legree Vineyards when you can make $40,000 in a season growing the popular soporific?

NEW BRIDGE for the Russian River? More and more talk about one for Asti in place of the temporary summer bridge maintained for years at Asti. A lot of people now live across the river and through the trees to the east of Cloverdale, and on south to Asti and beyond. But to get to their homes across the river they've got to go to the Cloverdale Bridge five miles north of Asti. Many permits are required to build an all-weather bridge so it'll be a while.

FASTER, GRAN, FASTER! Last Thursday, September. 20th, at about 9:30 p.m., Mendocino County Sheriffs deputies observed a pick-up speeding on Highway 162 near Covelo with 8 marijuana plants in plain view in the bed of the truck. When deputies attempted a stop, the truck, with Linda Britton, 63, at the wheel, accelerated to a paced speed of more than 80 miles an hour. Deputies pursued Gran and her eight, wind blown pot plants for approximately a mile until the truck pulled into a driveway on Agency Road, Covelo. Linda Britton, 63, Colleen Downey, 37, and Kerra Stillwell, 22, all of Covelo, and the pot plants, also of Covelo, were waiting in the truck. The three had taken the marijuana from the Round Valley Tribal Natural Resources Department where it had been stored in the agency's equipment yard. The three ladies had learned that the Round Valley Tribal Police had eradicated a marijuana garden on tribal land earlier in the day, and that the marijuana had been stored at the yard for eventual destruction from where the three ladies lifted it, intending to sell the marijuana and split the proceeds. Ms. Stillwell and Ms. Downey were issued a citation for transportation and possession of marijuana and released on their signed promise to appear. Grandma Britton was arrested for possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana, and evading a peace officer plus reckless driving. Gran was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where she's held on $25,000 bail.

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “The only issue in this election contest between Pee Wee Herman and Captain Kangaroo is how to do nothing to disturb the fantasy that we can keep living the way we do. I am coming to detest Mr. Obama for the unforgivable feats of doing absolutely nothing to oppose, resist, or remedy the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and doing absolutely nothing to restore the rule-of-law in banking. Mr. Romney, at this point, can only be pitied as some kind of thought-experiment gone awry in an evil consumer product testing lab on a planet of oafs. His fecklessness has no modern analog. Next to Romney, Bob Dole looks Lincolnesque.” — Jim Kunstler

THE ONGOING EFFORT by Eric Price to drive his competition out of business meant that Bones Road House, Gualala, was again twice raided last weekend by Eric Price's badged till tappers who snagged $286 from the thriving South Coast eatery, then came back to grab another $394. When Captain Bones himself tried to talk to Price about cooperating in the interests of the wider community, Price angrily claimed his 90 year-old father was being harassed and hung up. (The old man supports Price, set him up in business in Gualala.) The latest raid on Bones by his competitor also cost Bones' employees considerable wages and destroyed the Bones Road House portion of a benefit for the co-owner of the Four-Eyed Frog book store, tragically killed in a road accident.

A PAIR OF RESEARCHERS at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute say that their studies show that cannabidiol shows real promise as a cancer-fighting agent. “It turns off the activity of a gene responsible for metastasis in breast and other types of cancers” without turning on the patient, the two researchers say. “The preclinical trial data is very strong, and there's no toxicity. There's really a lot of research to move ahead with and to get people excited,” Sean McAllister told the SF Chronicle. He, along with Pierre Desprez, has been studying the active molecules in marijuana — called cannabinoids — as potent inhibitors of metastatic disease for the past decade.

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE will go to an all-electronic toll system by early 2013, Bridge officials announced last week. More than two-thirds of drivers using the bridge will continue to pay tolls using FasTrak, the current system that automatically tallies tolls based on a device placed in vehicles. But drivers will also be able to pay via a pay-by-plate account where toll-lane cameras would record license plate numbers and charge credit or debit cards each time they cross. Drivers will also be able to pay online or at special pay stations located along the Highway 101 corridor. Retiring the present crew of 32 toll-takers is supposed to help close an annual $66 million budget deficit.

49'ERS QUARTERBACK Alex Smith was kinda fined $15,000 by the NFL this week for wearing a Giant's cap at his post-game press conference Sunday. The league requires players to wear only NFL-affiliated swag. The fine was quickly withdrawn.

KYM KEMP REPORTS: Only in Humboldt (or Mendocino) would a county sheriff support a Public Service Announcement that teaches marijuana growers safe hiring practices. Just this last week, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Garberville/Redway Area Chamber of Commerce Garberville-Redway-Area-Chamber-of-Commerce have jointly issued hiring guidelines for the illegal marijuana industry that provides much of the county’s economic backbone.

“It’s your business. Treat it like one,” proclaims the ad which appears in a local paper as well as on the Chamber’s Facebook page.” The PSA warns “all home business owners” that they “may be in danger” and announces that “the majority of home invasions in Southern Humboldt are committed by persons or acquaintances of past “traveling” workers.” Then it offers several simple tips: “Do not hire anyone that you do not know or trust. Hire locals. Ask for ID, take down phone numbers and permanent address information. Check references.”

ACCORDING to Lt. Steve Knight, who admitted frankly that he never thought that in all his years of law enforcement he would ever be having this conversation, “The Sheriff’s office doesn’t want to see anyone hurt or ripped off… Our standpoint is that marijuana is illegal but we surely don’t want people hurt…. People aren’t replaceable. Things are…. We wish people did not cultivate. They do. Next, we don’t want anyone to get hurt [or] become crime victims.

PERV OF THE WEEK. Late Wednesday evening, September 19th, Ukiah-area deputies were dispatched to a possible prowler/trespass in the 2400 Block of Mill Creek Road where deputies spoke with a 29-year-old woman and her nine- year-old daughter. Mother and child told the deputies that a few minutes earlier they had seen Mr. Patrick O'Brien, 27, unknown to them, peeking through their kitchen window. Mother and child confirmed that O'Brien had attempted to open their bathroom window. Mother and child told the suspect to leave and then called 911. Approximately 30 minutes later, deputies learned that the suspect had entered the nearby yard of a 67 year old woman, activating her security system. When the woman looked out her window there stood Mr. O'Brien. She also telephoned 911. Deputies, including Sergeant Mike Dygert, were soon on-scene and arrested O'Brien for trespass. O'Brien said he had been walking on Mill Creek Road when the seductive grey glare of a large television screen and the beguiling sounds of female voices had inexorably drawn him to the home of the young mother and her daughter. O'Brien said primal sexual tides had drawn him to the rear of the residence where he peered through the window in an attempt to view the females emitting their siren songs. It was at this time that he was observed and then confronted by the 29 year old woman and the 9-year-old who told him to leave. O'Brien's bail was set at $15,000.

ON-LINE COMMENT from “Ben.” A few evenings ago, I drove through Garberville and saw at least 60 backpacker travelers wandering through town. Last year, a friend came up on the Amtrak bus from Berkeley. He had to wait 45 minutes at the bus stop for his ride to show up. As he stood there, three different pickups stopped and asked if he was looking for work. Think about it… The travelers are here because there is demand and money. Word gets around. Growers are desperate for help. Every year we are amazed at the new folks in town. You would think we might get used to it.”

THE LAST REAL DEMOCRAT? “Here's what pulls me into this race. There are two visions for America and how to build that future. The Republicans have made their vision clear. They have said, ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ … They said, ‘What we want to do is just cut taxes again for those who've already made it, leave more money for those who've already got it, cut regulations for those who are out there and building those successful businesses.’ What they say, in effect, is if you leave lots of money with the wealthiest and most powerful, the rest of you will be able to feed off the scraps. That's their vision for how to build the future. That's not our vision. It's the wrong vision for America.” —Elizabeth Warren

YOU DON'T HAVE TO GET too far into people's belief systems to come to a few conclusions, the primary one being that most people believe what they need to believe, that it's pointless to argue the fundamentals with anyone except maybe a smart kid who's still exploring the intellectual chop shop. You also find that beliefs are often class-based, hence for instance, the preponderance of Obama stickers on upscale vehicles. Comfortable people tend to have comfortable opinions. To them, the system makes sense. To the half of the population that doesn't vote, the system is either oppressively, dangerously crazy or oppressively irrelevant to their experience. Struggling people aren't much into crystals. When a Mormon appeared at our Fair booth to complain about an old interview we'd re-run having to do with his faith, he said, “A lot of what was in there is way off.” Probably, I conceded while I did a quick inventory of my own knowledge of Mormonism, coming up pretty much empty apart from a little about its origins with Joe Smith and the Angel Moroni, and a book I read a long time ago about the Mountain Meadow Massacre during which Mormons had dressed up like Indians to wipe out a wagon train of pioneers back in the early days of their Salt Lake settlement. From Catholicism to the Church of Christ to Rosicrucianism to Mormonism, it all seems like a cosmic whistling in the dark to me that runs right up against everything we know about cosmology. Of course living with the knowledge that this is the one life we have and nothingness awaits us at the end of the line doesn't exactly get a human being up and dancing. If Romney was a Buddhist he'd still be offensive simply for his political views, as would his lunatic running mate, a Catholic. But I've got a Mormon story all my own that begins with an old aunt of mine who liked to randomly say two things at the mention of religion: “More people have died” etc. and, “Say what you will about Mormons, they take care of their own.” She was impressed, she said, that Mormons never let other Mormons go hungry, that they maintained storerooms full of food as if apocalypse were a daily possibility. If a smart-ass kid asked, “You mean you have to be a Mormon or you can't eat?” She always seemed please to answer, “Yep.” And then there was my favorite uncle. As a child I liked him because he genuinely enjoyed little kids and was generally affable. When I met him as an adult he was still affable but unhinged at the changes commencing in the 1960s. These were people who'd survived the Great Depression, had known real want, and suddenly there were all these long-haired fools and their floozies walking around who took everything for granted, not only took it for granted, but sneered at it. Unc, who looked a lot like George Fenneman, Groucho Marx's straightman on Groucho's old TV quiz show, had taken some major hits. He was mystified by both his children, the eldest of whom grew up to briefly become public enemy number one in Arizona where the family lived while the second son got early into drugs. Cousin Jimmy, the elder child, became a college radical, the main guy in a Trotskyist group at the University of Arizona. He was often on the front pages of the Arizona papers, a skinny, nerdy-looking kid in coke bottle glasses making some wild political statement calculated to offend prevailing sentiment. “Yes, I believe in the violent overthrow of the government.” That kind of thing. He was a ground floor opponent of the Vietnam War, the first guy in the history of the state to refuse to register for the draft, and the first guy in the history of the state to go to prison for refusing to register for the draft. The judge found Cousin Jimmy's stand so perplexing that he ordered Cousin Jimmy into the nut house for months of “observation” before Jimmy even got to the federal prison at Lompoc, California, where, in an odd turn of the cosmic wheel, my youngest brother, also in the federal pen for refusing to register for the draft, was just leaving the same prison. I had a few adventures of my own that drew federal interest, and you could certainly say that our family wasn't under-represented on the subversive rosters of the time. But I didn't know any thinking young person who wasn't a lefty of one type or another. Looking back, we all read the same stuff, and we all read and argued all the time. Movies and music weren't the distractions they became after '66-67. When Cousin Jimmy got out of prison, I flew down to Phoenix for a visit. Unc, however, was still in prison, in a manner of speaking. “It's a goddam nightmare, Bruce. I can't even go out to get the paper in the morning without some goddam FBI agent saying good morning to me. Jimmy's always doing something that gets him in the papers! I'm surprised someone hasn't blown our house up!” Cousin Jimmy, when he was in high school, was among the top students in the state. When he came out to San Francisco he scored so high on the Post Office exam he got hired in a week. So, we were sitting around chatting that night with Cousin Jimmy out some place starting trouble as Aunt and Unc downed their customary case of nightly beer and were lamenting their fate as the parents of a communist and a dope head when I happened to mention that Albertson's was owned by Mormons. Unc shot up off the couch. “What?” he yelled. “Are you sure about that, Bruce? I hate those bastards!” Actually, I wasn't sure about it and can't remember how the ownership of Albertson's had even come up. I'd probably read it somewhere and had just thrown it out there to keep the conversation limping along. But Unc was very, very upset. “I've shopped at Albertson's for years. The Mormons have made thousands of dollars off me! Jesus! This is terrible! I wish you hadn't told me that!” Unc, distraught, was pacing up and down, almost hyperventilating, exclaiming over and over again that his unwitting mercantile relationship with the Mormons was just about the worst thing that had ever happened to him. “I really wish you hadn't told me that, Bruce,” he said again, as I definitely regretted bringing it up, for sure. I was a guest in the man's house and here I'd nearly given him a stroke. Unc explained that way back in his youth he'd gone to work for a big power company which had assigned him to a small town somewhere in Northern Arizona that Unc said “was totally controlled by Mormons.” He went on, “They'd sneak around my house at all hours trying to see in the windows to make sure I wasn't having a cigarette or a drink. They kept me under constant surveillance just so they could report me to my boss. I was like I was in jail!” As a chain smoker and a guy devoted to drink all his days, Unc's persecution by the Mormons, even if it was half as intense as he says it was, seems to have been plenty intense enough to set him off years later. Eventually, Cousin Jimmy got one of those Presidential pardons that Ford issued to people who got in political trouble in the Vietnam years and went on to became a lawyer who worked for several years as a public defender for Mendocino County. When Susan Massini was DA she always referred to him as “The Felon.”

PERTINENT COMMENT DEPARTMENT re Muslim anger at insulting depictions of their deity: “The arrogance is mind-boggling. France and England gave themselves the ‘right’ to draw the borders of the Middle East, with the Versailles Treaty. They drew borders with no regard for geography, market relations, cultural differences; the lines simply went where each nation thought it would benefit them. They then took various Ottoman territories, like Transjordan, and Iraq, and Palestine, as if to shepherd them to nation status. Well, except Palestine, of course, whom Lord Balfour had promised to the London Jewish Federation, during the war, as a Jewish National Home. Such colonial enterprises had been going on since the 18th Century, and continue today, more through the US than old Europe; but the emphasis is the same: The People Don't Matter. And few in the West will put themselves into the shoes of the average Arab. How would you feel if your national borders were so weak that a foreign power could fly in and assassinate someone they have decided was a terrorist? How would you feel if the Chinese or Russian air forces came in over your neighborhood with attack helicopters, landed on the lawn of the person across from your house, and blasted up his house, taking the man of the house away in a body bag. To you the guy was a famous Chinese or Chechen dissident, but the Chinese and Soviets called him a terrorist, and in their mind their actions are justified. How would you feel if in that sort of atmosphere, where your dictator is supported by foreign powers, those nations mock your lifestyle, your culture, your religion? We're pushing a people who have been pushed for two centuries, not including the Crusades, which are a chapter of arrogance unto themselves. We can keep it up, and we'll provide the catalyst for the Arab Spring to coalesce into an outright purge of dictators, not by asking them to leave but by slitting their throats. When that happens, you can kiss your four dollar a gallon gas goodbye. And you can kiss your kids and grandkids goodbye as they suit up to fight in a bloody Middle East war we aren't going to win.” (— Lance Beekman)

I HAPPENED to be walking past a vehicle the other day in San Francisco that sported a bumpersticker reading, “Another American for Israel.” A woman of my vintage had just parked the car. I couldn't help but greet her. “Well, what a coincidence! I'm an American for Palestinians.” Loud harrumphs and a death glare from my peer as she strode angrily off. Deeper into my walk that day I stopped to rest at the overlook above Baker Beach. A young man approached to say in thick accents as he gestured expansively at the Pacific Ocean behind him, “I am a visitor to your marvelous country from France. It is so beautiful, such a wonderful place, such wonderful people.” The kid could barely contain his delight. On behalf of the American people, I said from the sitting position, I accept your admiring expressions. “Thank you,” the Frenchman said. “Thank you very much.” An elderly Asian woman behind the wheel of a mammoth SUV soon stopped me to ask, “How I get Sunset District?” I was deep in the Presidio, and she was not only headed in the wrong direction I knew that precise directions would be lost on both sides of the language barrier. “I pointed south. “Go back that way, then to the ocean, then to your left.” She continued north in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge, but I do what I can for international harmony.

JUST IN from the lecherous mystic, Craig Stehr: “It's a wild time in the San Francisco Bay Area! The Bay Guardian's SEX issue hit the newsstands this morning, a prelude to the Folsom Street blow-out fetish faire on Sunday. opened their new cocktail lounge this week; The Armory Club at 14th & Mission Street. The annual Cum & Glitter performance is sold out. The XO Erotic Ball is at the Cow Palace. And if you really only want a good cup of coffee, Wicked Grounds coffeehouse is open at 8th & Folsom. I will probably go to Ocean Beach Sunday morning, and chant OM Namah Sivaya before sitting in nirvikalpa samadhi until I hopefully dematerialize. Feel free to join with me, Craig Louis Stehr, ‘Never on schedule, but always on time!’”

SCOTT MERRIMAN, 54, of Fort Bragg, formerly of Philo, was arrested on Thursday (September 13th) in Fort Bragg and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of driving on a suspended license and being in possession of a controlled substance. Bail was set at $10,000 for each charge. Merriman has also filed a series of claims against the County aimed, this time, at Ten Mile Court judge Clay Brennan whom Merriman says has jacked him around outside the law. Merriman had previously filed claims against Anderson Valley's resident deputy Craig Walker for many millions of dollars. That claim of course went nowhere.

THESE KINDS OF BEEFS filed by lone obsessives and chemically-fueled lunatics are routinely rejected by the Supervisors, and that's where they end because the unhinged plaintiff does not have the means to pursue them. Legitimate beefs are either settled by the County or a lawyer, recognizing that there can be big paydays in honest grievances against public agencies, will take them on a contingency basis.

MERRIMAN IS A SAD CASE. The son of the late John Merriman, flight instructor at Anderson Valley High School back in the day, Scott grew up in Boonville and went on to become an accomplished musician. Somewhere along the line he lost his way, lately becoming a kind of roving irritant, perpetually in low-level trouble. His current claims include “…denial of medications in jail, near death from blackouts which claimant claims caused brain damage on two occasions,” and so on through denunciations of and allegations against a range of persons, from court personnel to trailer park management. What you have here is a mentally ill person whose paranoid unhappiness is exacerbated by drug use.

THE COUNTY’S EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE crisis just got a lot worse. According to this week's Supervisor's agenda, funding and premiums for the 2013 Plan Year will be increased by a whopping 15% effective January 1, 2013. “This increase is primarily due to an unanticipated 8% reduction in plan enrollees/participants and a 45% increase in monthly claims costs per employee over the most recent 12 months.” …

“IN 2011, 34 claims of $50,000+ accounted for 53% of total claims costs, 12 of which were over $100,000 accounting for $3.7 million (excluding drugs) in medical expenses.”

REPEAT: 12 sick or injured people cost $3.7 million in one year. Translation: The cost of premiums has risen so much that few of the County's relatively healthy employees are willing to pay them and have left the program for cheaper coverage, leaving the County-insured heavy on unhealthy people whose County coverage costs everyone more and more.

WHAT ABOUT OBAMACARE? Staff is currently “evaluating the impact of Health Care Reform and possible health plan changes based on availability of exchange programs to employees enrolled in the County Plan.”

PERSONS who have studied the voluminous fine print of Obamacare (basically a huge gift to the insurance industry), say that it probably won’t help much with insurance costs or the County’s budget, since, on the one hand it might expand the pool of insured people and reduce costs, but on the other more people will seek care. And over time insurance costs which might be reduced by Obamacare will creep right back up once the freshly mandated participants are absorbed by this or than plan.

A RECENT Public Policy Institute survey found that 52% favor and 40% oppose Governor Brown's Proposition 30 — a four-year, quarter-cent sales tax hike and a seven-year income tax hike for individuals making more than $250,000 per year. 45% of voters support and 45% oppose wealthy civil-rights attorney Molly Munger's Proposition 38, which would result in a 12-year, sliding-scale income tax hike for most Californians. Most of the money from both would go toward schools. Brown's Proposition 30 has strong support among women, Latinos and younger voters, so “a high turnout would be very important for the success of this measure. Lower-income households show more support for either tax measure than do more affluent households. The recently enacted state budget is linked to Proposition 30's outcome: If the measure fails, about $6 billion in “trigger cuts” to K-12 and higher education will automatically take effect.

RECENT POLLS SHOW that 75% of likely voters oppose education cuts, and Brown — who has invested a lot of political capital in his ballot measure campaign — now has a 42% job approval rating. That's similar to his January standing, but his disapproval rating has grown to a record-high 47%.

BACK ON AUGUST 23RD, we wrote that former Gualala resident Gerhard Hanneman had been found guilty in Iowa federal court of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. (About 200 pounds.) Locally, Hanneman, had racked up methamphetamine-related convictions. Something of a legend on the South Coast of Mendocino County in the 1990s where he owned and operated a radio station, Hanneman flamed out his radio days with an hilarious daily denunciation of various of his South Coast antagonists, naming names in a kind of audio reprise of I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Going To Take It Anymore. Hanneman's live radio presentations were easily the most exciting radio in Mendocino County audio history. From there the guy seriously hit the skids and we lost track of him until he turned up in Iowa on the marijuana charges.

DATELINE DAVENPORT, IOWA, SEPTEMBER 17th: “Authorities say a 68-year-old Mendocino County man has been sentenced to prison for his role in an Iowa pot operation. Federal prosecutors say Gerhard Hanneman, of Fort Bragg, last week was given 10 years in prison. Hanneman had pleaded guilty to conspiring to manufacture and distribute marijuana. He must serve four years of supervised release when he leaves prison. Co-defendant Joseph Haynes has been given 78 months in prison, and co-defendant Andrew Gallagher is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors say that from February 2011 to December 2011, Hanneman grew the pot in California, then processed it and drove it to Iowa for distribution by Gallagher and Haynes. Iowa police departments in Coralville, Fairfield, Iowa City and Ottumwa and several Iowa sheriff's departments participated in the investigation.”

OUR NEIGHBORS TO THE SOUTH. A reader writes: “Tomorrow we will see Sonoma County’s response to the Civil Grand Jury Report on the flawed pension increase process and it will be discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, September 18th. The meeting starts at 8:30 and it is agenda item number 28 so it will probably be discussed at about 9:30. Anyone can address the Board of Supervisors for three minutes before they vote on the response. I will send all of you information on the response so you can decide how you want to respond either by showing up to the meeting or writing your supervisors or writing letters to the editors of your local papers. It will be very important for all of us to get the word out and put pressure on our supervisors to void the increase on the basis that it was illegally performed without the required cost study and public notification. How much has this increase cost the county? We were all told in 2002 that it would be paid for by the employees with an additional 3% to 4% of salary increase in employee contributions. Calculating the actual cost is difficult to do because there are so many moving parts. Higher retirement amounts and rates, and investment shortfalls to name a few. But I think comparing the actuarial studies for 2011 for Sonoma County with Marin County is a good way to determine the approximate costs of the increase. Marin County did not provide retroactive increases to their employees. The average pay per employee is almost identical to Sonoma County; they are also a County Employee Retirement Law (CERL) county so they go by the same rules, and they have gone through the same investment shortfalls as Sonoma County. Marin County Pension Costs: The average county employee salary in Marin is $86,735. The employer contribution is 26.6% and the employee contribution is 10.09% for a total cost for pensions of 36.59% of payroll. Marin County does not provide social security benefits to their employees and they don’t have any outstanding pension obligation bonds. Sonoma County Pension and Retirement Benefit Costs: The average employee salary in Sonoma is $86,045. The employer contribution is currently 19.93% and the employee contribution is 12.17%. But Sonoma County also has to pay for the debt service on its pension obligation bonds which is 15.55% for a total cost of 47.65% or 11% of payroll more than Marin County. At the current county payroll of $322 million this represents an additional cost to the county of $35 million per year. In addition, Sonoma County pays 6.2% of salary into social security, so the total cost of pensions and SSI benefits for Sonoma County are 53.85% versus 36.59% for Marin County, 17.26% of payroll or $55 million more per year. The bottom line is that we are fighting for a roll back of illegally enacted benefits that will save Sonoma County about $35 million per year. That is a lot of money that could prevent us from going bankrupt and save our roads and other essential services. So stay tuned…”

IN WHAT SOUNDS suspiciously like the latest step in a standoff between Coast Hospital and it’s employees union, Coast Hospital CEO Ray Hino announced that he is asking his Board of Trustees to consider filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Hino has already received approval from the board to have the Hospital’s attorney draw up the bankruptcy paperwork. Trustees will also consider an “action plan” to deal with the Hospital’s financial problems. AVA readers may recall that last month Hino backed away from a unilateral decision to not implement the 3% pay raise called for in the current union contract without giving a reason when the union's attorney pointed out that such steps must be negotiated. According to bankruptcy law, formal mediation is required before Chapter 9 bankruptcy can be filed. (Chapter 9 is not a liquidation style bankruptcy, but a reorganizational process that postpones creditor claims and other payouts while reorganization is undertaken.) However, Hino made it pretty clear that the bankruptcy filing is primarily addressed at lowering employee costs. “The process allows us to negotiate better terms with our creditors and bondholders,” said Hino, adding, ominously, “and to alter our union contract in our effort to reduce overall expenses by $3 million per year.” Since the hospital’s prior “action plans” already addressed many of the “better terms” with creditors, it’s pretty obvious that Hino wants to use the bankruptcy process to pressure employees into the mediated concessions he couldn’t get unilaterally.

POINT ARENA'S PERENNIALLY TROUBLED school district naturally comes with a perennially incompetent school board. Always teetering on the edge of state conservatorship, and having fired its sole recent school administrator —Matt Murray — who was able to briefly lift Point Arena's academically neglected children to a basic standard of classroom success, PA soon sank back into failure. And new superintendents, the latest of whom convinced PA's trustees to give her ten thousand more on her already lush $120,0000 annual contract or she would go to Willits. “Dr.” Colleen Cross also said she wanted more for her edu-doctorate, a diploma requiring zero academic ability or persistence, hence its ubiquity among Mendocino County's educational leadership. The doctor's extra dough will come out of an already strained PA school budget, i.e., classroom instruction, essential personnel.

JEFF COSTELLO WRITES: “I happened upon a book of Mormon in Poulsbo, Washington. Inside the front cover was a photo of the missionary who had left it. Pictured with him were his wife and two kids, the wife kneeling by his side, at equal height with the children. To illustrate the appallingly bad writing in the text, I recall this sentence, about the ‘Lamanites,’ referred to as ‘cursed by God with dark skin’: ‘…and the number of the Lamanites was great in number because of the greatness of their number’.”

SAMPLE BALLOT BOOKLETS and mail ballots for the 2012 Presidential general election will soon be winging your way. The Secretary of State’s office reported the Voter Guides have been put in the mail; and the Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots will begin to be mailed Tuesday October 9, 2012. VBMs will be available on that date in the County Clerk's Office, for the Presidential General Election to be conducted on November 6, 2012, according to Susan M. Ranochak, Mendo's Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder.

ON THURSDAY, October 4, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Emken will be coming to Fort Bragg to meet Mendocino County voters. She will eat lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant, 12:00 – 1:30 PM. Following lunch, Ms Emken, hosted by the indefatigable Stan Anderson, will have about two hours to meet with the local news media. Info at 707 321-2592.

SKEPTICS can be excused for thinking this story is missing most of its facts: The Sheriff's Office reported that “on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at approximately 1:20am deputies were summoned to the area of Eel River Road and Ridgeway Highway in Potter Valley where a man said he'd shot himself in the foot. Nicholas Andrew Noel, 32, said he had been camping in the bushes about ten miles up the Deshield Ranch Road from Eel River Road, but could not describe the exact location. Noel advised there was a bear in the area, so he grabbed his shotgun and was looking for the bear when he accidentally shot himself in the right foot. Noel said he immediately applied his belt as a tourniquet to his leg to stop the bleeding. Noel said he got a ride from two unknown persons who happened to be driving by his location in a vehicle he could not describe. He was subsequently dropped off at the intersection where deputies located him. The two unknown persons then drove to a residence on Van Arsdale Road and used the resident's phone to call 911. The two unknown subjects then left the area. Noel was transported to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment to his non-life-threatening injury.”

THREE FEMALE MAN BEATERS triple team one Westport male then battle responding deputies: Sunday night at about 11pm, deputies were summoned to a domestic dispute in the area of the Westport Hotel, soon amended to 24590 Seaview Drive, Westport, where a man, not identified, said he had been assaulted by Cicely Kishbaugh, 27. Miss Kishbaugh and her alleged victim were, the cops determined, “cohabitating partners who had engaged in a verbal argument that escalated into Kishbaugh physically assaulting the victim. After speaking to all involved parties, deputies went to place Kishbaugh under arrest and she immediately resisted and physically assaulted the deputies. During this time, two other suspects identified as Alexandra Freeman, 25, of Fort Bragg, and Shari (Elizabeth) Marchesi, 51, of Eureka, began to interfere and engaged and physically assaulted the deputies.” The three warrior women were arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Jail. One of the deputies was later treated at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained as a result of the melee.

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